There’s an international flavour to this month’s (August 2014) issue of The Nano Bite from the Nanoscale Informal Science Education Network (NISENet).
Excitingly, there’s a report about some NanoDays 2014 events in South Africa,
→ Inspiring Students and Teachers Across the Globe: NanoDays in South Africa
By Jamey Wetmore, Center for Nanotechnology in Society, Arizona State University
In February  I got a phone call from Montreal: “OK Jamey I’ve just chatted with our colleagues in South Africa. We’re all set for the workshop on engineering for development. But there’s one more thing…would you mind running NanoDays while you’re there as well?”
The call was from Matt Harsh [currently at Concordia University, Montréal, Québec, Canada], a colleague from the Center for Nanotechnology in Society (CNS) [Arizona State University] who had run NanoDays with me a few times in Arizona. Evidently he had mentioned it to a professor in the Chemistry Department at the University of the Western Cape and she wanted her students to experience it. The workshop we had planned was only going to be held in the afternoons so my mornings were free. “Sure, why not?!” I said. But later as I thought about it I wondered…what the heck do I know about presenting science in Africa?
A few days after I finished NanoDays at the Tempe Arizona Festival for the Arts I packed my bags for South Africa. At CNS we have been getting NanoDays kits for several years now and we had a few extra demos lying around. I gathered up a few of our favorites – Gummy Capsules, Sunblock, Invisibility Cloak, and You Decide! and added them to my luggage. The plans were all set. I was to have a morning to train a half dozen chemistry grad students in how to present nanotechnology and then we’d spend two days on the floor of the Cape Town Science Centre.
A couple days after arriving in Cape Town, Matt and I found the small room at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) that we were to use for the training. As the rooibos tea was passed out I realized that there were a lot more people in the room than I anticipated. “Are you all graduate students?” I asked. “Um no…we’re here from Arcelor-Mittal.” “From where?” “The Arcelor-Mittal Science Centre in the Western Cape. We heard about the training and drove a few hours to get here this morning.” The Arcelor-Mittal staff eagerly explored the demos and made the training significantly better than it would have been. Matt and I taught the basics about nano and introduced the demos and then the science centre staff offered advice on how to present on the floor.
The Arcelor-Mittal’s staff usually have a very tough job because their science centre is in the middle of an area that is only reluctantly abandoning Apartheid. One of the struggles is that the best schools in their area all teach in Afrikaans. As a result a large number of young people – those who speak English and/or Xhosa – can’t go to a good school. The Arcelor-Mittal staff therefore spend most of their time traveling to small villages to introduce kids to as much science as possible. For some of the schools they visit, the experiments they do with equipment from their van is the only science the kids will get.
Their manager noted that the most difficult thing for her is that the people in the area have no dreams, no vision for how life could possibly be outside of their little area. The science centre staff sees their work as an effort to provide such a vision. I’m hoping we were able to help a little bit with that goal. The Arcelor-Mittal staff really enjoyed the demos we had brought and were quickly doing them better than I could. They were thrilled to get ideas about ways to present nano in their programs. …
Read the full story about NanoDays in South Africa on the NISE Net Partner Highlight blog.
The whole story is quite interesting and continues in this candid style. (I last wrote about the University of the Western Cape with regard to its new green nanotechnology centre in a July 29, 2014 posting.)
Next up on the global agenda, is this NISENet activity,
Nano Around the World – a NISE Net short activity card game designed to get participants to reflect on the potential uses of nanotechnology across the globe.
Here’s a description of the game from the Nano Around the World webpage,
Nano Around the World is a card game designed to get participants to reflect on the potential uses of nanotechnology across the globe. Players each receive three cards: a character card, a current technology card, and a future technology card. They are asked to assume the role of their character to find nanotechnologies that might benefit them. After game play there is a facilitated discussion to help players reflect on the choices they made, the difficulty in finding appropriate technologies for many of the characters, and the possible nanotechnologies that could benefit a wider array of people than current nanotechnologies do.
The ‘character’ cards are what make this game international. A typical character card lists a nationality and profession such as Japanese businessman, along with a name, age, specific occupation, along with other details such as this,
Katsu has been working for Sony for five years. He makes $60,000 a year. He has a wife and a 10-year-old daughter. Katsu’s parents are healthy and still working, but in about five years they’ll retire and Katsu will be the sole breadwinner for the family. After work, he
likes to grab a drink or two with his colleagues.
Other characters include a Chinese factory worker, a Swedish taxicab driver, a Russian unemployed physicist, Slovakian Eurovision (talent contest for singers) contestant, and more.
Keeping on the international theme, there’s a video from Canada mentioned in this US publication,
Nano Careers short video is a NISE Net linked product developed by Science Alberta and gets kids thinking big about nano careers by starting to think very small!
Here it is, Science Alberta’s nano careers,
There’s more information such as details about obtaining 2015 NISENet mini grants in the Aug. 2014 Nano Bite.